On Tuesday evening, Rachel Maddow set the political world aflame by tweeting that MSNBC had acquired President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which he had previously refused to make public, Complex reports.
BREAKING: We've got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC.
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) March 14, 2017
The documents came via Daily Beast columnist David Cay Johnston.
— David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) March 15, 2017
Before the segment aired, the White House issued a statement about a “dishonest media” that was “desperate for ratings.”
— David Shepardson (@davidshepardson) March 15, 2017
There were, of course, early rumors about what the document would contain.
Hours after a much-touted MSNBC “scoop” revealed part of President Trump’s 2005 tax returns — and in the process, undermined the left’s speculation that he was a tax dodger — the commander-in-chief fired back Wednesday morning with another volley of barb-laden tweets, Fox News reports.
Though Trump was set to hit the road for a stop in Detroit and a rally in Tennessee on Wednesday, he kicked off his travel with a victory lap on Twitter after DCReport.org reporter David Cay Johnston revealed 2005 Trump tax documents to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. Johnston said he found the president’s 1040 form “in the mail,” a story Trump wasn’t buying as he took aim at Maddow’s parent network.
“Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, ‘went to his mailbox’ and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!” Trump tweeted.
Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, "went to his mailbox" and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2017
MSNBC’s hosts have a tax problem.
A Heat Street review of public records show that a total of six current, prominent MSNBC pundits have recently settled federal or state tax liens, while one still has tax problems. Moreover, at least two other hosts who recently left the network have also had massive tax liens filed against them, Heat Street reports.
MSNBC declined to comment, and none of the current or former tax debtors responded to requests for interviews sent through an MSNBC spokesperson.
The Rev. Al Sharpton — MSNBC’s Sunday morning host — easily comes in first place when it comes to “issues” with the taxman. He and his various entities—including several dissolved by New York for failure to pay taxes—currently owe about $1.5 million in state and federal taxes, interest and penalties, according to public records.
It’s a staggering sum, but down substantially from the $4.5 million in outstanding tax liens tallied by the New York Times two years ago. Sharpton has repeatedly said he’s worked out agreements with authorities to settle his tax debt, and a source close to him says he’s been paying it down aggressively, aware of how it may affect his legacy. The reverend has repeatedly called publicly for the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.
Several other prominent MSNBC talking heads have settled their tax debt only after liens were filed.
In January 2016, New York filed a lien for more than $2,500 in back taxes against MSNBC daytime anchor Craig Melvin, which he didn’t settle until the final weeks of the year.
It’s not the first time Melvin has run into tax problems, either. In 2010, South Carolina — where he used to anchor local news — filed a tax warrant against him for more than $3,300, which has since been resolved. Melvin has also run into other financial problems, with Discover Bank taking him to court in 2005 over a $3,200 debt.
Melvin has spoken out on air and on social media about the need for the wealthy to pay more taxes.
Should peeps earning a million $ or more a year pay more income taxes than those making less? Would a "millionaire's tax" help the economy?
— Craig Melvin (@craigmelvin) September 19, 2011
Melvin is joined by Chris Matthews. Last summer, Maryland took out a lien against the Hardball host and his wife for nearly $4,000 before Matthews paid up.
Congrats to Eric "Ebeneezer" Cantor for starving people on food stamps. Helluva victory for the 1 percent.
— Chris Matthews (@HardballChris) September 19, 2013
#Obama has rung the bell. The campaign’s on. He’s asking the American people to say they want a fair tax burden. Gutsy move.
— Chris Matthews (@HardballChris) September 20, 2011
Joy-Ann Reid also recently settled a New York tax lien for nearly $5,000, filed against her in 2015.
Both Matthews and Reid have repeatedly held forth about tax policy—including together, on the same TV segment.
In 2012, for example, Matthews said that “the key element” of a political battle between John Boehner and Barack Obama was “that there be tax fairness—the people at the top, who now get a tax break of about 5 percent, should not get that anymore because they don’t need it.”
“Right, absolutely,” Reid replied. Later in the same interview, she mentioned how “it was very important to [Obama’s] base that he gets those rates up on the top earners. That was what he promised.” More recently, Reid said that taxation of the wealthy comes down to “a basic fairness argument.”
In 2016, Kristen Welker finally paid off $6,700 in California tax liens. Though she’s offered little personal commentary about tax policy, she has reported on the issue.
— Kristen Welker (@kwelkernbc) January 29, 2014
Potus: "majority of voters agree with me" when it comes to wealthy paying more in taxes. A subtle suggestion that he's got a mandate.
— Kristen Welker (@kwelkernbc) November 14, 2012
Per Dem Source Fam with talks: The call between Boehner and POTUS was tense bc the R. offer had permanent tax cuts for wealthy americans.
— Kristen Welker (@kwelkernbc) December 12, 2012
Two other recent MSNBC personalities have also grappled with massive tax debt.
Touré Neblett, who was fired by MSNBC in 2015, has had significant tax problems. According to public records from the NYC Department of Finance Office of the City Register, the IRS filed two separate tax liens against him for more than $257,000, covering the years from 2008-2012.
It’s unclear whether he has made any effort to pay off these tax debts, or whether they remain outstanding. Neblett did not respond to our media requests sent to his various social media accounts, and by deadline, his representative for speaking gigs had also failed to respond to our detailed inquiry.
The New York City office that recorded the liens was unable to confirm or deny any payments. The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said it did not show any state warrants but couldn’t comment on the status of federal tax warrants. By deadline, the Internal Revenue Service hadn’t responded to Heat Street’s detailed query about whether the tax debt was outstanding.
Melissa Harris-Perry, who left the network in 2016, had a federal tax lien taken out against her for around $70,000 in 2015. She paid it off the following year. She did not respond to Heat Street’s request for comment.